Three Things When You Feel Overwhelmed

I love the wide embrace of my writing and speaking ministry. One month I’m preaching from the book of James on the power of words, the next month from Psalm 34 on the challenge of seeking peace and pursuing it. One day I’m leading an online session on lament, the next day reviewing a book on work and worship.

And of course life is more than the work of ministry, as I’m also doing what I can to support my husband in his journey with cancer. For now he has regular treatments every second week, plus other medical-related appointments on the off-chemo weeks, like the FIVE appointments we had last week.

This wide embrace of life and ministry is also my biggest challenge. Having multiple projects with different deadlines plus my husband’s medical appointments requires some careful and creative planning to avoid scheduling conflicts. I’m still learning how to build in enough margin so I’m not rushing headlong from one thing to the next, to the next, to the next.

God has been so gracious in sustaining me and us through this time, we have so much wonderful support from family, friends, church, and strangers, the ongoing thoughts, prayers, emails, and phone calls from many. Thank you to everyone, and thanks be to God!

Yet sometimes I still feel overwhelmed by life, because well, life is overwhelming at times. I once wrote in an article, When You Feel Overwhelmed: “Overwhelmed. I’ve been there too.” Truth is, I’ve often been there in the last year with all of the above, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and with much more happening personally, in my church and community, and around the world. I’ve been needing to re-read that article and take my own advice!

Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

In addition to that article, here are three things that are helping me deal with the overwhelm these days that I hope will help you too.

#1 My trusty planner

I’ve used many different calendars and planners over the years, but this version of the Polestar is my current favourite. It’s Canadian-made by a family-owned business committed to being environmentally friendly and making regular charitable donations each year. Their calendars are available online, but I get mine locally from the House of James. And no, this is not a paid product placement or affiliate post in any way, I just really love my Polestar!

I love the space for monthly planning, weekly appointments, to-dos, and notes. I’ve dressed up my 2021 agenda with colour—red for deadlines, purple for phone calls, blue for speaking commitments, and black for everything else—and added stars to mark priorities, arrows to carry things forward, boxes to highlight, check marks to say I’m done! I picked up my 2022 agenda a few weeks back, and have already started on next year.

#2 Setting aside time to plan and pray, pray and plan

When I get busy, I often find myself planning on the fly, which is to say I’m not actually planning, but doing whatever is the most pressing. Yes, the tyranny of the urgent à la Charles Hummel is alive and well and lurking just around the corner. So before the crunch comes, I find it helpful to take a step back and do some real planning—not just doing whatever seems the most urgent, not just writing things down, but prayerfully discerning which commitments to take on, which ones won’t work, what needs to happen when and why, and what needs to wait.

Monday is still my blogging day, still my bookkeeping day, and now I try to invest some of my Monday time in prayer and planning too.

#3 Giving myself grace

In When You Feel Overwhelmed, I wrote:

Life is overwhelming, and it’s okay to feel that way. If you feel paralyzed, don’t pressure yourself to act. Just breathe. Do the essentials, and leave the rest. Be gentle with yourself, and with those around you. Take a nap if you can. Eat from your sad food group.

So yes, sometimes I take a nap instead of dealing with my messy kitchen. I skip picking up the mail in favour of writing my next article. On housekeeping, my mom once said to me, “The beds can wait, let’s go shopping.” And clearly I’ve learned that lesson well—not so much about shopping, but the fine art of knowing what can wait. Even now on my kitchen counter, I still have a pan that needs scrubbing from two nights ago, but it will still be there for me when I get to it later today. In the meantime, I give myself grace just to let it be and let myself be in this present moment.

So friends, these are three things I find helpful when life feels—and is—overwhelming. I pray they might help you too when life feels like too much.  What helps you in the overwhelming flood of life? Your comments and tips are most welcome!

Writing/Reflection Prompt: What three things help you in the overwhelming flood of life?

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4 thoughts on “Three Things When You Feel Overwhelmed

  1. April, you have helped me so much with this post on the overwhelming nature of life and work. Almost six years ago, a fall sent me into a semi-immobile state of living. The intervening years have encompassed two surgeries, one a major spinal fusion (my fourth fusion in the area where my scoliosis resides). That surgery has caused other problems making my immobility worsen. I gave up posting on my blog almost a year ago as I had lost all motivation to write. I also have a memoir manuscript that needs major restructuring. Nothing has been done on either during this time. Depression took over, and I am so thankful to have a loving husband by my side. However, I am determined to make improvements and have been agressive/assertive with my doctors to help me find the best treatments available, and they are committed as well. To shorten this, your thoughts and words today have given me not only hope but a spark of inspiration and motivation. Thank you, April.

    I am pleased to hear that you and your husband are jointly working toward his best situation in all things. I’m also happy you have taken into account self-care for yourself. I’m working on that as well.

    Grace and peace, Sherrey

    1. It is so good to hear from you, Sherrey! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and for your good thoughts on our behalf. You have SO MUCH to navigate these days. I’m grateful that your husband is by your side, and that your doctors are committed as well—that’s huge when life is so overwhelming, yet still I can imagine the flood of things to do and things waiting and the swirl of many feelings around all of that. I’m glad to know that this post is helpful, and I pray that the spark of inspiration and motivation might help light your way forward. Take care and keep in touch, April

  2. Thank you, April for sharing from your heart. You are a strong woman who is an excellent planner and an achiever. I am praying for healing for your husband and also for you, that you might not overcommit yourself as you have a lot on your plate. Our youngest daughter used to get overwhelmed and anxious about her high school assignments and I told her the best advice I could give was to make a list of everything she had to do and then just to get started on one thing; make it the thing that seems the most overwhelming. That always worked for me

    1. Thank you for your encouraging words and for praying for us, Elfrieda. That means a lot to me and to both of us! I love your advice to your daughter to make a list and get started on just one thing. I often do that too, although I don’t always start with the thing that seems the most overwhelming. I tell myself just to start somewhere, and momentum often kicks in.

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